SBJ/October 13 - 19, 2003/Facilities

SMG, Sportservice sent in reinforcements for Soldier Field opening

With Soldier Field in Chicago opening Sept. 29 for Bears football just two days after Turner Construction cleared the stadium for operation, SMG and Sportservice mobilized a small army of out-of-market supervisors to assist respective on-site general managers Tim Lefevour and Paul Potter. Glenn Mon, SMG's Philadelphia-based vice president of stadiums and arenas, coordinated a visiting staff that included managers from Network Associates Coliseum in Oakland; the Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans; Reliant Stadium, Houston; Alltel Stadium, Jacksonville; and Peoria (Ill.) Civic Center; plus corporate vice presidents Harry Cann, Gary McAneney and Brian Hayden.

"That's typical for an opening, Super Bowl or Final Four," Mon said. "We always bring in SMG personnel to help the existing staff." What was atypical was the 48 hours they had to prepare for the first full-fledged event. "That has got to be a record," Mon acknowledged. "Lincoln Financial Field had the summer to prepare, with soccer and Bruce Springsteen well before the first Eagles game. This was a remarkable situation, but that's what we were dealt. We were able to do a lot of orientation with supervisors but in very small groups because tradesmen were still working."

Sportservice bused 48 employees from Miller Park to work Soldier Field's 67 food stands, 133 luxury suites and the Cadillac Club, said Tom Olson, Sportservice general manager at the Milwaukee facility. Joe Sims from Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati also brought a busload of vendors. Another crew came from Busch Stadium, St. Louis. Steve Casad, opening Petco Park next year for the San Diego Padres, was among five other Sportservice managers in Chicago. They focused on training 32 nonprofit groups, which Olson pointed out was a first for Soldier Field. Previous concessionaire Aramark hired unionized employees.

It took a small army to coordinate the process of opening Soldier Field to the public.

GLOBAL SPECTRUM GETS KEMPER: Fifteen years after Frank Russo initially targeted Kemper Arena for private management, the publicly owned Kansas City arena reached agreement with Global Spectrum of Philadelphia on a three-year contract with two one-year options. The deal takes effect today.

"This was one of the first stops I made with Ogden in 1988 when I heard somebody wanted to privatize," said Russo, Global Spectrum senior vice president, referring to his tenure with the facility management and concessions firm acquired by Aramark in 2000. "I consider this the brass ring, with Kemper being in a major central market and the leverage it produces."

Global Spectrum was awarded the right to negotiate a contract in June.

"The whole process took longer than anticipated," Russo said. "It was a complicated deal. This is the first time the city has ever allowed a third-party contractor to write checks against the city's name." His firm worked patiently with Kansas City officials, completing a joint venture with a primary tenant, the seven-week-long American Royal horse show, which had right of first refusal on private management.

As an operating expense, Global Spectrum will pay the American Jazz Museum, which also houses the Negro League Baseball Hall of Fame, to ensure that Global Spectrum fulfills affirmative action requirements by using minority and women subcontractors at three venues next to Kemper Arena — Hale Arena, the Governor's Building and the American Royal Building.

"This saves us from having to re-invent the wheel and making all those contacts," Russo said. The deal with the jazz museum, located in the historic 18th and Vine district, ties in fund-raisers, live performances at Kemper Arena and two $1,000 college scholarships awarded annually to jazz musicians. "The idea is to help the museum gain more notoriety and visibility," he said.

Concerts West, the Anschutz Entertainment Group event promoter, is a booking partner and will assist Global Spectrum in advising the city on plans to build a new arena, Russo said. Comcast-Spectacor, Global Spectrum's parent company, could bring an AHL franchise to Kemper Arena in 2004, and the Kansas City Sports Council is exploring the viability of a WNBA team. Kemper Arena has the MISL Comets. The ABA Knights play at Hale Arena.

LEVY STILL THE BIG BOSS: Larry Levy may no longer be CEO of Levy Restaurants, but the 59-year-old Chicagoan insists he is still the boss after Andy Lansing, a 15-year employee, was promoted late last month to that position. Lansing, 43, started with the concessions firm in 1988 as general counsel, working his way up to president and COO in 1995.

"With the size of our company right now, Andy is better equipped to be CEO," Levy said. "We have secured a billion dollars worth of business within the last five years. He has the passion, energy and brains to continue our success. I'm still the owner. I have the best title and one of the best jobs in the world. I recall the joke that Albert Einstein told on the occasion of his 50th wedding anniversary. He said, 'I have one simple rule. I make the big decisions and my wife makes the little ones. I don't remember a big decision coming in a long time.' The same is true here. Less and less bubbles up to me."

QWEST CENTER GETS EARLY SELLOUTS: Levy and Lansing will be happy to hear that one of their latest accounts, Qwest Center Omaha, home of Creighton Bluejays basketball, opened with sellouts from Cher (Oct. 3) and Fleetwood Mac (Oct. 9), with 1 million attendees expected in the first year of operation, said GM Roger Dixon. Because the $291 million arena/convention center complex originally was financed through tax-exempt bonds, under Internal Revenue Service guidelines, Levy was not allowed to sign a contract based on profit-and-loss percentages. The facility's governing body, the Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority, is a nonprofit entity. The authority pays Levy — which won the contract through its $4 million capital investment — a fixed management fee. "If they hit certain sales numbers, a one-time incentive fee kicks in," Dixon said. "I'll be surprised if they don't hit it, based on our initial business."

Contact Don Muret at dmuret@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

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